That Didn't Take Long: ESPN Reportedly Close To Signing Ray Lewis As NFL Analyst
Ravens LB Ray Lewis is “close to signing a multi-year contract” with ESPN, a day after he announced he would retire following the NFL playoffs, according to sources cited by Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Lewis is “expected to have a significant role on the network's Monday Night Countdown program.” As with “most ESPN NFL talent, Lewis would also be featured on multiple platforms, including ESPN Radio.” No formal announcement from Lewis or the network is “expected until the conclusion of the Ravens season.” Sources said that Lewis and his reps from William Morris Endeavor “met during the season with several of the NFL broadcast networks.” Sources added that one of Lewis' main requirements “was flexibility in his schedule so he could attend the games of his son," Ray Lewis III, who will be a freshman at the Univ. of Miami next season. That scheduling “made Lewis an unlikely fit for a full-time role on the Sunday morning shows aired by CBS or Fox where he'd be required to be part of pre-show meetings on either Saturday or early Sunday.” There is a “possibility Lewis could work for ESPN on some Sundays depending on his travel.” Given his “star power, it's very likely Lewis would have a role on ESPN's multiple-day coverage of April's NFL draft” (SI.com, 1/3). In Baltimore, Jack Lambert noted despite Lewis’ “declining play on the field,” he is “still one of the most recognizable football players in the country.” Marketing Evaluations Exec VP Henry Schafer, whose company produces Q Scores, said this summer that Lewis is “recognized by 67 percent of average sports fans and has a Q-score of 20.” Schafer said that “both of those numbers are above the national average for football players” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/2).
EXTRAORDINARY TV POTENTIAL: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote success on TV is “far from guaranteed, even for someone the stature of Lewis.” But SI’s Deitsch said Lewis’ TV potential is “extraordinary.” Deitsch: “He’s considered to be incredibly charismatic, a great speaker, great communicator and on top of that has incredible name recognition, because he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer.” ESPN NFL Senior Coordinating Producer Seth Markman said, “Ray Lewis has instant name recognition among all football fans and when he speaks he never holds back. You know he will be candid in offering his insights and opinions. That’s everything you hope for in an analyst.” THE DAILY's John Ourand said Lewis is “the kind of polarizing figure TV executives love” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/2).
KNOWN QUANTITY: In Baltimore, Chris Korman wrote Lewis' "gift for hyper intense gab ... will continue to make him money." Experts said that Lewis' name "will always resonate in the Baltimore area and with true NFL fans," but added that he will "need to evolve in other ways if he hopes to continue growing his brand." Korman noted Lewis "could command a six-figure payout per engagement, especially fresh off retirement." Under Armour Senior VP/Global Sports Marketing Matt Mirchin said, "We'd like him to be an Under Armour athlete for life." Lewis "told Under Armour officials during a recent meeting that he hoped to stay and invest in Baltimore." Mirchin "believes Lewis will resonate as a pitchman for years to come, whether or not he opts to stay in the spotlight." Korman noted Lewis has "long shown an interest in businesses outside of football," but those efforts "have largely foundered." Several business projects Lewis "launched during his playing days failed, and the multi-company empire he envisioned being built on his name and reputation has yet to materialize." Among other businesses Lewis has "tried his hand in real estate," opening South Florida-based commercial real estate firm RL52 Realty in '10. That company "appears to have closed" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/2).